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Safe Cooking for Food Allergies

It can be a challenge to cook when someone in your house has a food allergy -- especially if not everyone shares the same allergy. You may find yourself making separate meals with different ingredients using separate utensils.

Here is how to make cooking for a person with food allergies safer and easier.

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Allergy-Safe Cooking

  • Start with shopping. When you buy packaged foods, read labels carefully to see if they have the problem food in them. Food companies are required to say on or near the label if a food contains milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soy.
  • If the person you are cooking for has a severe reaction -- such as anaphylactic shock --- to even traces of the food allergen, consider keeping the food out of the house.
  • Clearly label foods as "safe" or "unsafe" before you store them. Use a different color marker for safe and unsafe food as a visual reminder.
  • Designate different shelves in the pantry and refrigerator for safe and unsafe foods.
  • Store all foods in sealed containers.
  • Go through your pantry often to make sure you have safe foods and substitutes on hand.

Wash Your Hands -- A Lot

It sounds simple, but one important step is to wash your hands often. Start by washing well with soap and warm water before you start cooking. Wash again between cooking with and without the problem food.

Don't use an antibacterial gel. Antibacterial gel alone may not remove some food triggers. Soap and water is a must.

Food Allergy Prep Precautions

Cross-contamination can happen if you use the same knives, spoons, measuring cups, cutting boards, pots, pans, grills, or other cooking equipment. To avoid cross-contamination:

  • If you can, first prepare the food for the person who’s allergic. Then fix food for others.
  • If possible, have separate sets of utensils and cookware for preparing allergenic and non-allergenic foods.
  • If you need to use the same cooking tools, put those contaminated with allergens into the sink or dishwasher right after you use them. Teach your family not to use them again until they're washed.
  • In between fixing safe and problem foods, thoroughly clean and sanitize counters and other surfaces where food is prepared. For some foods, like peanuts, you may need to use a kitchen spray cleaner or sanitizing wipe as well as dishwashing liquid.

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